Fox News host Bill O'Reilly typified conservative media's absurd arguments on border enforcement, claiming that President Obama is not committed to addressing the issue because he can't stop immigrants from coming into the United States illegally in the first place. O'Reilly also dismissed the Senate immigration bill's border surge provisions, arguing that “money doesn't stop drug smuggling or people smuggling.”
Discussing President Obama's November 25 immigration speech, O'Reilly speculated about the chances of passing immigration legislation, saying: “The problem here is that nobody believes President Obama will secure the border. They believe he'll give the pathway to citizenship but nobody believes he's gonna stop more people from coming in to follow the same pathway.”
When contributor Juan Williams noted that the Senate-passed immigration bill includes substantial funding for border enforcement measures, O'Reilly replied:
O'REILLY: Money doesn't stop drug smuggling or people smuggling. You've got to have the will to do it and that will has to be imparted and you've got to put commanders down there, people who are really, really committed to stopping the chaos on the Southern border, and nobody, Juan, nobody believes the president of the United States is committed to do that.
O'Reilly went on to repeat Fox News' talking point that Obama's speech was an attempt to “deflect” from the problems with the Affordable Care Act's rollout. Guest Mary Katharine Ham agreed, saying that “the timing is interesting.” She went on to promote the discredited conservative myth that Obama could have passed comprehensive immigration reform early in his first term if he had “made it a first priority” when “he had 60 senators.” She continued: “But he put it off because he liked using it as a cudgel before the 2012 elections.”
O'Reilly's point that Obama isn't serious about border enforcement because he's unable to prevent immigrants from crossing into the U.S. illegally or from overstaying their visas is absurd. There are a host of reasons that prompt illegal crossings, which can range from economic to family reunification.
Interestingly, an August study from the University of Southern California found that many Mexican immigrants justified their illegal crossings because they were part of a community with a “culture of migration.” From the study [references removed]:
Specifically, the odds of intending to migrate illegally are more than three times higher for respondents who have many/some family and friends who have tried to migrate to the United States illegally.
Having many or some friends/family who have tried to cross illegally is the strongest normative predictor of the intent to migrate illegally, having the largest odds ratio. The second most powerful normative predictor is an individual's agreement with the statement that Mexicans have a right to be in the United States, which increases the odds of intending to migrate illegally by a factor of 2.735. The next most powerful set of normative predictors is agreement with the view that it is okay to enter the United States illegally to make more money even with a good job in Mexico, followed by agreement with the statement that disobeying the law is sometimes justified.
The study further noted that the “prevalence of unauthorized migrants from Mexico is due to a long history of U.S. involvement in Mexican economic and political affairs, as well as active and sustained labor recruitment efforts by the U.S. government and U.S. employers.”
In a July 10 address on immigration, Obama hinted at some of these reasons, saying that “our borders are just too vast for us to be able to solve the problem only with fences and border patrols. It won't work. Our borders will not be secure as long as our limited resources are devoted to not only stopping gangs and potential terrorists, but also the hundreds of thousands who attempt to cross each year simply to find work.”
Indeed, experts have maintained that immigration reform is what's needed to “get control” of the border, which is a fact Republicans have recognized. For example, Bush said in 2007 that “you cannot fully enforce the border so long as people are trying to sneak into this country to do jobs Americans aren't doing.” Bush added: “If you're interested in border security, you've got to recognize that giving people a chance to come and work here on a temporary basis makes it more likely the border will be enforced.”